CULLMAN, Ala. (WIAT) – BMI, one of the largest musical licensing entities in the world, has filed a lawsuit against a Moe’s BBQ in Cullman, claiming the franchise has caused “incalculable damage” by ignoring more than 70 requests to stop playing copyrighted music.
The lawsuit, filed June 25 in federal court, claims that the Moe’s BBQ location regularly allows “unauthorized public performance of musical compositions from the BMI repertoire.” BMI claims that on a single day in 2019, the BBQ franchise violated the copyrights of nine songs, including “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, “American Pie” by Don McLean, and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” by Toby Keith. The violations include both live and recorded performances, a representative of BMI told CBS 42.
BMI claims that since August 2018, its representatives have tried to contact Tyler Schuman and Justin Gilley, the franchise’s proprietors, more than 70 times by phone, mail, and e-mail “in an effort to educate defendants as to their obligations under the Copyright Act.”
“The specific acts of copyright infringement alleged in the complaint, as well as Defendants’ entire course of conduct, have caused and are causing plaintiffs great and incalculable damage,” the lawsuit claims.
BMI has asked the federal court to order the franchise to stop playing BMI-licensed music and pay “statutory damages” to the company.
In a statement to CBS 42, a representative of BMI said it only sues to enforce copyrights as a last resort.
“We want music to benefit everyone, which is why we spend so much time educating businesses about the value that music brings to their establishment, the requirements of copyright law, and the importance of maintaining a music license,” the BMI representative said in an e-mail. “Most establishments recognize this and choose to feature music because they understand the value it adds to their business and the ambiance it creates for their customers.”
Businesses who wish to play music in the “BMI repertoire” can go to the entity’s website to find out more about licensing, which can cost as low as $378 a year but can swell into the thousands depending on the type of business, the frequency of music played, and the number of individuals in the venue.
CBS 42 reached out to the Moe’s BBQ franchise and to Tyler Schuman and Justin Gilley directly without success.
Below is a full list of songs BMI claims Moe’s BBQ in Cullman played in violation of copyright law.
- Gunpowder and Lead by Miranda Lambert
- Sugar, We’re Going Down by Patrick Stumph and others
- Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue by Toby Keith
- Broken Wing by James House and others
- Never Been to Spain by Hoyt Axton
- Inside Out by Jonthan Lee Siebels and others
- Bennie and the Jets by Elton John and Barnard Taupin
- American Pie by Don McLean
- Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers